April 22, 2010

Low Anthem at the Paradise

With some bands, you go see their show, you love the tunes, you go home. The Low Anthem, for me, made me think. Don't get me wrong, their show was pretty great, their ethereal-folk rock is incredibly intense, soothing, mysterious and lush. It washes over you. Also, the band is incredibly tight and talented. Their harmonies are spot-on and the band's voices play off each other beautifully. Each of the four musicians – Ben Knox, Jeff Prystowsky, Jocie Adams, and Mat Davidson – play multiple instruments. It's impossible to list what each one of them plays, so let's just take Jocie, for example: She played guitar, bass, clarinet, drums/percussion, and the best was this instrument called cotales, which has a bunch of small cymbals on top that she bows between to make the gorgeous ethereal backing sounds to a lot of their tunes. The combination of Knox's whispered vocals and acoustic guitar plucking, Prystowsky's sparse acoustic bass playing, Adams on the cotales, and Davidson on pump organ is truly magical.
They played quite a few songs off their album, "Oh My God Charlie Darwin," including great versions of "Charlie Darwin," "To Ohio," "Cage the Songbird," and "Ticket Taker," which, after you see how completely they reproduce them live, you realize that the album isn't a layered studio effort as you might have thought.
They broke away from their woozy, whispered-vocals sound briefly in the middle of the show for a two-song, ear-crunching electric set, that seemed a little out of place. Even though they do show that side of their personality on their recordings, it was a little bit jarring live.  Once the two songs were done, they went back to their quiet stuff and never returned to the electric instruments.
So that's my concert overview. Now the thoughts that floated through my mind during and after the show: First, many of the songs, excluding the electric ones, not only have the same tempo, but a similar sound. Now they play a ton of different instruments, I count 14 listed on their MySpace page. So I was surprised that the songs sounded so similar. It's not they all sounded exactly the same, but some varying tempos could have aided the show. Toward the end of the show, the crowd seemed a little restless, like they were waiting for something to happen. There were some really beautiful moments, where the group all stood around one microphone and sang together (see photo above). Also, it seemed that the sound could have been a little louder, given the quietude of the songs. Maybe it was tough to balance the really loud rock with the quiet stuff in the overall mix of the show.
And finally, and I know I've been rambling here, but I thought the crowd was pretty small for a band that seems to have pretty good buzz. Maybe the Low Anthem is really more of a critics' band than a rabid following-type. It really thinned out at the end and there was a lot of loud talking in the back by the bar, which was very disappointing.
To view more pics from the show, click HERE

April 16, 2010

Anais Mitchell's Hadestown live at Passim

Just waking up after a great night of music at Club Passim in Cambridge. Anais Mitchell recently released the concept album "Hadestown," a modern, folk opera take on the Greek myth Orpheus. Last night she brought it to life on the small and very crowded stage at Passim. To try to describe the full background of her folk opera Hadestown would take way too long here, and it has already been told in great detail in Joan Anderman's recent Globe feature, which you can read HERE. On the album, the various characters of the story are performed by the likes of Greg Brown and Ani DiFranco, among others, which is wonderful. But for the live show at Passim, Anais brought together some of the finest Boston-area musicians, and as usual these guys not only performed beautifully, they obviously enjoyed the challenge and reveled in each other's voices. When they weren't singing, they were swaying, eyes closed and applauding each other. The roster included (and I'm praying I don't leave anyone out) Tim Gearan, Peter Mulvey, Kris Delmhorst, Dinty Child, Rose Polenzani, Anne Heaton and Melissa Myers. Five of them sat around a table in front of the stage, each taking on a character, while Anais led the group through the album, start to finish. The group was backed by the Michael Chorney sextet, a jazzy group that supplied both beautiful soundscapes and kickin' tempos when needed.
I'm hoping someone will post a video soon because words just don't do justice to the amazing community feel and soaring harmonies coming from the stage.
Because of the configuration of extended stage, I ended up first row, front and center. While this was a great spot to see the performers' expressions, it made it impossible to break out my camera. So I have attached a photo that Passim sound guy Matt Smith took. Hopefully, someone else will post more pics soon.

April 3, 2010

All a'Twitter

I recently joined twitter HERE. I waffled a long time about joining... do I really need more "things to update" in my life? No, not really. But I decided to join because I realized there are things posted by bands -- news tidbits, video -- that I was missing.
So in lieu of original content at the moment, here are four videos I found through Twitter. All are really cool to watch. Enjoy.

The Submarines doing the Beatles "For No One"

The Submarines » The Beatles from The Voice Project on Vimeo.

Peter Wolf and Shelby Lynne

Josh Ritter doing "Rattling Locks" in rehearsal

Grace Potter playing live in a rolling studio at SXSW